With coronavirus infections growing at an increasing rate, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards today announced masks must be worn if there is to be any hope of reversing the trend. Edwards also announced bars will no longer be allowed to have on-premises consumption, but can still offer curbside pickup.
Masks will be required for everyone age 8 and older, unless they have a health condition that does not allow them to wear a mask. Some parishes will be allowed to opt out of the requirement if they have a low incidence of COVID-19. The governor said currently only three parishes fit the criteria: Grant, Red River, and West Feliciana parishes.
Governor Edwards also noted that anyone with a health condition that would prevent them from wearing a mask is at a greater risk of serious complications of COVID-19, and should not be out in public unless it is an extremely important circumstance.
The governor has long resisted a mask mandate, expressing his belief that such a requirement would be difficult to enforce, but the rising number of hospitalizations and the increasing percentage of positive test results have placed new urgency on public health efforts.
"We cannot risk losing our capacity to deliver life-saving care," said Edwards.
The governor said a lot of the new cases have been traced to bars. He said bars are a setting where people gather closely, lower their inhibitions, and frequently have to talk loud to be heard over music -- all circumstances conducive to the spread of COVID-19. Edwards said he is not happy about doing this, but said it must be done if cases are to come down before the state can safely move to the next phase.
Edwards said there are also new cases coming from what he referred to as "back-yard" gatherings, and urged people to please be mindful that the pandemic has not slowed down.
While many of the new cases at the beginning of Phase Two were in people ages 18-29 years old, Dr. Alex Billioux with the Louisiana Department of Health said the data shows the virus is now spreading to older, more vulnerable people.
The Louisiana Department of Health reports 23 more deaths today, for a total of 3,295.